The History of Trucking Transportation

In our last blog we talked about the evolution of the loading dock and how it came about because of changes in transportation. In this blog we will talk about how commercial trucking originated and how it changed and improved to become the system we know today. 

From Train Engine to Truck Engine

Prior to the mass adoption of motor vehicles, shipping was done in one of three ways: by water on a boat or a ship, over land by horse-drawn wagons, or by train. Shipping over water has always been one of the most affordable ways to transport, but companies had to find ways to get goods from the coasts or major river ports inland. Horse-drawn wagons were slow. Train transportation was fast, and the U.S. government had invested heavily in it, but it was also inflexible and unable to deliver to the final destination in most cases.

World wars made the need for mass logistics obvious. Henry Ford’s assembly line mass production of motor vehicles began in 1913 just before the advent of World War I. The State of Michigan also passed the State Reward Trunk Line Highways Act in 1913. This created our state highway system and assigned numbers to mark roads. The national highway system eventually followed in 1926. 

By 1935 the U.S. had enough highways for Congress to pass the Motor Carrier Act in 1935. This regulated truck operation on all of the nation’s highways, limiting the number of hours truckers were allowed to drive and setting maximum and minimum rates for trucking services. The U.S. Government had begun to see how much more flexible, innovative, and affordable private trucking companies could be as compared to the railroad industry. 

More Trucking Milestones

After World War II, commercial trucking shifted again with the adoption of the direct-injection, turbo-charged diesel engine. Trucking companies improved and expanded their capacity, lengthening their commutes and carrying heavier cargo loads. The first freeways were built in Michigan in the 1940s. Michigan was ahead of many states in road building and shipping because of the development of the automobile industry and the Big Three. 

It is at this point in time when trucking began to resemble modern day transportation. The Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways began in 1956 when Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. With a modern diesel engine, high velocity motorways, and the flexibility of trucking, mass shipping could become a reality. The loading dock also transformed at this time to allow loading and unloading of goods in a safer and quicker fashion. The shipping infrastructure that we know today began in the 1950s, but it’s been adapted and improved significantly over the years to become faster, safer, more efficient, and more universal

In 1910, on the cusp of all of this development, there were only 10,000 trucks in the entire United States. Railroads ruled the transportation world. Today, 111 years later, over 15 million trucks are on the road every single day, and 70% of all goods are delivered by truck and pass in and out of warehouses and stores via the loading dock. Beuschel Sales is proud to have played a small part in this great system of shipping and transporting goods for the past 52 years

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